So Long, Peter

A week before the seventh anniversary of Davy Jones’s death and just a little over a week after his own birthday, Peter Tork passed away.

I’m heartbroken.

I wrote about my attachment to The Monkees when I remembered Davy after his passing. Losing the guys is something I’ve dreaded for a long time. Losing Davy hurt badly. Losing Peter doesn’t hurt any less.

He was a brilliant musician and a gifted songwriter, something that goes terribly overlooked just because he was part of a band initially created for a TV show. He played a slew of instruments. He just had that natural talent for understanding them and playing them. I always felt that he was underused as a vocalist and songwriter in the band, as well. The other guys had songs that were catered to their voices and styles. Peter should have had more of that treatment. Maybe he wasn’t the strongest vocalists, but he had a sound that should have been heard more.

I have a lot of his solo and non-Monkees work. I adore Shoe Suede Blues. I love the stuff he did with James Lee Stanley.

And of course I’m forever grateful for the role he played in The Monkees as an actor and a musician and as one of the architects of the happy place that I started constructing back in 1986.

Blessings to you, Peter. Safe trip beyond the horizon.

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Murderville: Rounds of Luck-Episode 2

Blind Spots

The next noise Otis heard was the sirens of the approaching police cars. He watched the red and blue lights as they sped down the lane. A dead body where there shouldn’t be one warranted a little haste, though Otis fretted that Velvet might have gone into hysterics on the phone and that’s what caused the quick response. She must have had some of her wits about her, though. The lights disappeared around the far side of the building and then reappeared in the back lot.

The first responding officers, uniforms, quickly roped off the scene and set up generator powered lights, flooding the area with such bright light that Otis thought he could see every flaw in the concrete. One of the uniforms, a young guy that was probably only just out of school, ushered Otis to stand out of the way, but still inside the tape. A second uniform, obviously the veteran as he was nearly as old as Otis and carried himself in a similar manner (he’d seen it all), asked Otis for a rundown of what had happened, and Otis gave it to him in a succinct and professional manner.

Just before the detectives arrived, Velvet emerged from the building and came to stand with Otis, only she stayed on the outside of the tape. She looked better than she had before, though her arms were crossed tightly over her ample chest and she trembled a little like she was cold. The night was chilly, but not that chilly. Otis felt bad for her. He reached over and gave her shoulder a firm pat. She smiled weakly in return.

The two of them waited and watched in silence as the detectives talked with the uniforms and surveyed the scene, taking pictures and notes. A forensic team arrived and then the death investigator. Once the death investigator had her notes and pictures, she, the younger detective, a forensic officer, and one of the uniforms pushed the dumpsters apart to create a space around the dead man instead of pulling the man out. After even more pictures and some consultation, the senior police detective, a handsome black man in a pressed navy suit, walked over to Otis and Velvet. Otis stood up a little taller, smoothing down the front of his jacket.

“I’m Detective Josh Carpenter,” the man said, producing a notepad and pen from his pocket. “Are you the security guards who found the deceased?”

“That’s right, I did,” Otis said, voice firm and authoritative, professional. “I’m Guard Otis Gorski. As soon as I found the body, I alerted Guard Velvet Li,” Otis nodded to Velvet standing just behind him, still on the outside of the tape, “to call the police and Mr. Kobel.”

“Would that be Manfred Kobel?” Detective Carpenter asked, scribbling something in his notepad.

“That’s right. This is his warehouse, part of Kobel Industries.”

“I suppose that saves us the time of calling him ourselves,” Detective Carpenter said, glancing at Otis.

“Mr. Kobel insists that we call him any time, day or night, if something happens at one of his facilities,” Otis informed the detective, who nodded and scribbled.

“Very hands on kind of boss, huh?”

“He likes to know what’s going on with his businesses,” Otis said. “Can’t blame him for that.”

And Otis didn’t. He knew Velvet had no love for him, but he was overall rather indifferent to the man. He was just a boss and Otis had always been indifferent to those. They had their own agendas and as far as Otis was concerned, his job as a security guard had very little to do with that. He walked the grounds he was supposed to walk, watched the property he was supposed to watch, and collected his paycheck. That didn’t mean he didn’t take his job seriously because he did; Velvet Li would be first in line to tell anyone who questioned it. But the way he did his job had nothing to do with a loyalty to any particular boss. His loyalty was to the honor of being a security guard.

“Hey, Josh! Guess who are vic is!” the death investigator called to the detective.

“I don’t have to guess, Lu,” Detective Carpenter replied, still scribbling. “Because you’re going to tell me.”

“You’re no fun at all.”

“You’re enough fun for both of us.”

“True.”

Otis watched the death investigator hand an ID to the other detective, a much younger, whiter, cherub looking man whose grey-brown suit looked as though it had never existed without a wrinkle. He hurried it over to Detective Carpenter.

“Detective Carthos, this is Guard Gorski and Guard Li,” Detective Carpenter said, taking the ID from his partner without glancing at it. Otis nodded at Detective Carthos, who returned it. “Please take Guard Li,” he gestured to Velvet, “to a quiet spot for questioning.”

Otis looked at Velvet, a little concerned that she wouldn’t be up to it. But she looked a lot more alert than she had before. In fact, she looked downright feisty.

“What do I have to be questioned for?” Velvet asked, on the defense and ready to bite.

“Everyone has to be questioned, Guard Li,” Detective Carpenter said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Velvet said, and Otis held his breath instead of sighing loudly like he wanted to do.

“No one is saying you did, Guard Li,” Detective Carthos said, a little more gently than Detective Carpenter had spoken to her. “It’s just standard procedure.”

“They just want your statement about what happened, Velvet,” Otis said, trying to sound supportive and not annoyed.

“I saw a dead man’s legs by the dumpsters, damn near fainted, and called the police,” Velvet said. “There. That’s my statement.”

This time Otis didn’t restrain his vocal sigh or his annoyance.

“Velvet.”

“That’s a very good start, Guard Li,” Detective Carthos said, cutting Otis off. It irked him, but it was probably for the best. He and Velvet could really go at it when they were both in a sporting mood and now was not the time for that. “But if you could recount the events leading up to finding the body and making the phone call, it might help us understand more about what’s going on. Maybe even tip us off to who the killer might be. After all, something unimportant to you might be important to us.”

Velvet looked the detective up and down suspiciously. Just as Otis was about to open his mouth to tell Velvet to talk to the damn detective and answer his questions, the death investigator called out to the assembled uniformed officers.

“Time to put this man on a gurney and get him home to the morgue. Who’s going to help me?”

Velvet’s dark skin paled and the fire in her eyes went out without so much as a puff of smoke.

“Fine, I’ll talk to the detective, but over there.” She pointed behind her. “Around the corner. I’ve already seen more of that dead man than I ever wanted to.”

“That’ll be just fine. Lead the way,” Detective Carthos said with a smile.

Detective Carthos nodded to his partner and then walked past Otis, ducking under the tape and following Velvet as she hurried around the corner.

“Is she going to be all right?” Detective Carpenter asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” Otis said, turning to him. “She’s a tough girl. Really good at her job. I sort of took her under my wing when she first got here. Showed her the ropes. She’s a good girl. It’s her first dead body, I think. The first one is always a shock.”

“Ah. I see.”

Detective Carpenter looked at the ID in his hand, a flicker of recognition crossing his face. Otis wondered who the dead man was since both the death investigator and the detective seemed to recognize him.

“Who is in charge here?”

Otis turned around already knowing what he would see. All of the noise and bright lights of the crime scene must have blotted out the headlights and sound of the car coming up the lane.

Manfred Kobel had arrived.

###

The fun is only getting started. To read more, check out Murderville or Patreon.

Just Let Me Have This Tantrum and Then I’ll Do It

A favorite story about me (stop me if you’ve heard it) is about the time when I was three years old and they found me crying in the closet at my grandparents’ house with a huge book open on my lap. The problem? I was mad at myself because I couldn’t read it.

And that pretty much sums up a big part of my personality.

I operate under the delusion that I should be able to do anything whether I know how to do it or not. Running tangent to this delusion is my bad habit of doing everything the hard way. Throw in my inability to ask for help and my overwhelming stubborn streak, and I am a recipe for minor explosions. And being the creative type, they occur more frequently than I’d like.

My most recent tantrum was about Book ’em, Danno, the podcast that is yet to be. I attempted some recordings for it one night and was so dissatisfied with what I had done that I went on Twitter to declare myself a failure as a podcaster and effectively cancelled the project.

And then two days later, I decided to try again.

That’s the usual outcome of my tantrums. I get frustrated, I get fed up, I chuck it in the fuck it bucket, and then end up digging it back out again.

Believe me. It’s just as annoying to me as it is to you.

But for whatever reason, it’s the way I work. It’s not very efficient. Laws knows that it’s not good for my blood pressure or my sanity. I don’t care to count how many projects I’ve rage-quit and then come back to and successfully finished. I do my best to keep these tantrums to myself because I know how likely it is that I’ll change my mind.

However, sometimes…

Yeah. If you see me having a bit of a meltdown about something I’m working on, just give me a little sympathy, pat me on the back, and rest assured that I’ll get it done in the end.

February Writing Projects

The good news is that I finally got the rewrite of The Coop Run done last month.

The less than good news is that I didn’t finish the flash fiction project.

I know! I said I would. Well, I said maybe. The Coop Run took priority. When I started working on the flash fiction project, I realized that I wanted to add a few more stories to it. And a few more became a few more and then…

It didn’t get done.

But it will get done this month.

I’m looking at twenty-five stories for this collection, each story right at 1,000 words. That’ll make it a solid 25,000 words, which I think is both satisfying, but easy to read in small doses. I already had eleven stories written and revised when I started. I’ve since written and revised seven more. I just need another lucky seven. Then it’ll only be a matter of formatting, designing a cover, and publishing.

And that’s the only writing project I’m going to work on this month because I’m also going to be working on some Book ’em, Danno stuff. Despite my Twitter tantrums, the show will (eventually) go on.

You know what else is going on? Murderville: Rounds of Luck! Episode 2 goes live on February 12th. $1 an episode let’s you read. $2 an episode let’s you read and gets you a sweet bonus every other month, like the one $2 patrons will be getting February 26th. So become a patron and don’t miss out!

Rerun Junkie–Episode: “The Fugitive”

You can blame Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast for this. And then you can go listen to Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast (and support him and the show on Patreon!) because both the host and show are damn nifty.

In a recent episode of the podcast, Tom discussed The Twilight Zone episode “The Fugitive”. While I encourage you to give the whole episode a listen, particularly if you’re not familiar with the episode at the heart of the discussion, I’ll give you a quick rundown here:

J. Pat O’Malley plays Old Ben, a kindly old man that plays with the neighborhood children and has a particular kinship with one little girl with a lame leg named Jenny. Jenny has it pretty rough. The other kids don’t like playing with her because she’s a girl and she wears a leg brace. The aunt whom she lives with is horribly abusive towards her. Old Ben is a bright spot in her life.

Old Ben can do magic, like turn himself into other things, because he’s really an alien. When two men show up looking for him, he first tells Jenny it’s because he’s a fugitive. He then heals Jenny’s leg and leaves. In an attempt to get Old Ben to come back, the men zap Jenny into a kind of coma. He shows up to heal her and that’s when the real truth comes out: Old Ben is actually a king. In the end, he takes Jenny with him to his planet. Rod Serling’s closing narration informs the audience that the picture Jenny left under her pillow for her aunt to find is of Ben’s true form. He’s actually a young man. And her aunt will never guess that her niece will one day be a queen.

The discussion of this episode brought up an uncomfortable, but valid interpretation of the relationship between Old Ben and Jenny, insinuating that Old Ben’s interest in Jenny was more than platonic and the fact that he’s actually a young man in disguise doesn’t really make it better since the king in the picture could easily be nineteen or twenty and Jenny is only about twelve. It makes certain scenes and some dialogue rather squicky and distasteful when viewed in this particular light.

Now, like I said. It’s a perfectly valid interpretation of the episode, though I don’t think it was all written with that intent. It was meant to be something like a sci-fi fairy tale. And I’ve never even thought of it in that light when I’ve watched it. That could, of course, be my J. Pat O’Malley bias here. I love that man and I really need to write a post on him. It might be why I always looked at Old Ben as a kindly grandfather figure, someone who went an extra mile to be caring with Jenny because she had so little caring in the rest of her life. Even the reveal at the end didn’t sway my perceptions. I never took the relationship to be anything more than innocent.

And that’s probably because of the fairy tale aspect of the story.

Little girls are groomed from baby-age to be princesses and aspire to be queens. That Old Ben was really a young king and wanted Jenny to be his queen is supposed to be every little girl’s dream, age of consent be damned. We’re actually taught to look for someone older to take care of us. That this would be the ending to this fairy tale isn’t at all out of the norm.

It also plays on another trope common in children’s stories: the abused/neglected kid somehow being special and escaping their situation. That’s what the story really struck me as. That fairy tale of escaping some hostile situation that you, as a child, are powerless to change. That Jenny became queen later never felt that important; you could have left it out all together and the story would ring just as true. If Jenny had been Danny, there would never have been a need for any postscript crowns.

And if Jenny had been Danny, I doubt that as many people would arrive at the less-than-innocent interpretation of the episode because people still struggle with the idea that boys are also sexually abused.

There’s a societal conditioning concerning gender roles that I think plays into both interpretations of the episode. Old men prey on little girls. Little girls want to be princesses and queens.

And while the episode is definitely a product of its time, the lens we view it through hasn’t aged as much as we think.

Fat Girl in the New Year

The new year is ripe for weight-loss related resolutions. Not for me. My commitment issues only allow for me to have half-assed resolutions. My weight requires my whole ass.

Lots of people make weight-loss related resolutions and that’s fine. Some people need that fresh new year to help motivate them in their health goals. I can relate. I always have to start a goal on a Monday. It feels wrong to me to start in the middle of the week.

For me, though, my weight isn’t a resolution. It informs too much of my existence, too much of how society treats me to consider it so casually. And let’s face it. Most people take their resolutions casually, like champagne bubbles made to broken.

It just so happens that I am trying to lose some weight this year and it just so happens that it looks like I started around the first of the year. But this is not a resolution.

It’s like this. In the last couple of years, due to a delightful combination of illness and injury, sprinkled generously throughout with some mild depression, I’ve gained some weight on top of the weight that I’ve already been lugging around and frankly, it doesn’t thrill me.

Now, I’ve tried to get this weight gain under control, but it seemed like every time I started to get back into the swing of taking better care of myself, something would come along and derail it. And then I’d have to go through the struggle of starting all over.

Last month, I put it to my mind that I was going to get back into the habit of exercising regularly. I started around the beginning of the month (on a Monday, of course) and I was doing well with it. And then I hurt myself. Leave it to me to suffer a devastating knee injury while doing holiday baking.

My knee healed enough that I could start doing modified workouts the week of the first (I started on Monday the 31st, of course). And I’ve continued doing them on a daily basis, wearing a brace and increasing the length and difficulty, using modifications when I need them as my knee continues to heal. This regular exercise should help me feel better and help me lose some of the weight that I gained in the last couple of years.

This is a goal. Not a resolution.

When you’re fat, it’s easy for people to assume that when you’re eating a salad, you’re on a diet. They can’t fathom that you might always eat a salad or that you prefer a salad or hell, you were craving a salad (it happens to me rarely and usually in the summer).

When you’re fat and committing to an exercise plan at the beginning of any given year, it’s easy for people to assume that you’ve made a resolution. And resolutions are famous for being quickly disregarded and therefore, aren’t taken seriously. Which is what compels me to clarify my particular position.

This is not a resolution. This is a goal. A goal with the purpose of creating a lifestyle change. A lifestyle change which should help me feel better.

As much as I struggle, I am taking this seriously.

And, weight-loss related or not, casual or not, I’m wishing you well on your resolutions, too.

Turning 39: The Last of My Thirties

I have once again completed a trip around the sun and once again I find myself looking around thinking, “Holy shit. I’m not dead yet. That’s wild. I probably should have planned this better.”

Since this is the last year of my thirties, I figure it to be a sort of a victory lap. I went into my thirties thinking that I’d have a good time and it’d be my decade. And though I did have a few good years, it was really hard in a lot of ways. I went through some shit. I’m actually looking forward to getting into my forties.

I suppose I should be disappointed. I’m 39 and I haven’t checked off a whole lot of things on society’s To Do List. Hell, I haven’t checked off a bunch of things on my own To Do List. I’m kind of a failure.

Oh, well. Too late to do anything about it now.

So this year I send off my thirties and prepare myself for my forties. I have no idea what that’s going to entail. Ideally, there will be more success than I’ve had. More fun. More good times with people I adore. Ideally, I’ll get to meet new people and see new places because ideally I’ll make more money and therefore be able to afford that. Maybe I’ll even get an idea of what I should do with my forties.

But for now I’ll leave it loose. No need to put high expectations on 39. After all, I haven’t really plotted anything so far. Why start now?

Should be a real swingin’ time.